How to Organize Your Thoughts

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Lightbulb! A brilliant idea suddenly strikes. But how do you maximize
that creative thought before it disappears? Try mind mapping, a technique
of organizing ideas visually created by Tony Buzan in The Mind
Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain's
Untapped Potential. Mind mapping helps you sift through complex
thoughts and work out practical solutions. Use it to take notes, develop
concepts or sketch out an overview. Give it a try during your next
brainstorm.

  • Get a pencil with an eraser and a big piece of unlined paper. Write the project title, a short phrase or a symbol of your main idea in the center of the page. Then draw a circle around it.

  • Add other important concepts around the outside of the circle. Write quickly without pausing, judging or editing yourself. Use strong words instead of long explanations.

  • Think about the relationship of the outer items to the center one. Relocate relevant items closer to each other for more accurate or realistic representation of their interconnections.

  • Draw lines radiating out from the center circle and label them with the major subheadings.

  • Incorporate new ideas into the map appropriately. As you look for meaningful relationships between the ideas, you are mapping knowledge in a manner that will help you understand and recall new information.

  • Get creative: Combine concepts to expand your map, add more detail and explore tangents. For many people, symbols and pictures that represent ideas are easier to identify and remember than words.

Tips & Warnings

  • People with dyslexia may find mind mapping particularly helpful since it relies on images and colors, and not words.
  • Look for software at MindGenius.com and ConceptDraw.com, among others, if you would like to produce high-quality maps that you can easily edit and redraft. A computer mind map will also allow you to write sentences of explanation for yourself or others while keeping extra information hidden until it is needed.

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